Planning a family vacation on a budget can seem out of the question when you're living paycheck to paycheck. However, it might be easier than you think. For families wanting to know how to save for a family vacation, here are some simple ways to cut back so that you can cut loose on a trip with the ones you hold most dear.
1. Evaluate Your Subscriptions
It happens to the best of us — we sign up for streaming services, shave clubs, clothing subscription boxes, and even car wash memberships, and then slowly stop using them or forget that we have them all together. One of the easiest ways to save for a vacation is to cut out your unnecessary costs. Ask yourself:
- Do I watch programs on all of my streaming services?
- Do my spouse and I have subscriptions to the same service and not even know it?
- Could I save on clothes, razors, food, and coffee by buying them at the store?
- Have I gone to the gym to use my membership since signing up?
- Do I actually watch cable or can a streaming service give me what I need?
One of the best ways to take inventory of your subscriptions and memberships that you may have lost sight of is to look for recurring charges on your credit cards. Evaluate what isn't being used and cut the cord on those plans. This puts money right back in your pocket.
2. Bundle Your Plans
I was guilty of this for YEARS. My husband and I got married, had a baby soon after, and simply forgot to bundle our car and health insurance, phone plans, and renter's policies. Taking the time to make a few phone calls and merge your plans can save you hundreds of dollars a year.
This also allows you to take stock of the plans you have and others that are available. For instance, if you have Geico car insurance and your husband has State Farm, take the time to call both companies, along with a few other competitors, to find out who will give you the best rate. For phone plans, take the time to ask if they have any incentives for bundling cable and internet.
3. Sign Up for Credit Cards With Perks
If you want a quick and easy tip on how to make a family vacation on a budget happen, simply sign up for a credit card that helps you get there. Take the time to figure out where you would like to go and determine the airline or hotels that you would like to use. Then, find a credit card that will get you points to cut back on your travel costs or that has cash-back options to help you save.
Also, take a second to do an inventory of your current cards. Do they have an annual fee? If you are paying for a card and not using the benefits, then it's not worth having in your wallet.
Most credit cards with perks require a certain amount of spending during a specific time frame. You don't have to spend extra money to make this happen. Instead, you can charge your regular bills for the designated window of time and move recurring payments on other cards to the new one.
5. Invest in Better Food Storage
Food waste sends your money right down the drain. One of the best ways to stop this habit is to invest in better food storage. I absolutely love our FoodSaver from Costco and they sell Kirkland brand sealer bags for half the price of the brand name option. Once you have your sealer, you can make a point to vacuum-seal meats, vegetables, and fruits the moment you get home.
I know what you might be thinking — you have plans to use half that food this week so why seal it up? If you're a busy parent like myself, you know that these best-laid meal plans many times don't work out, so don't let that food go to waste.
I also recommend using these bags for leftovers. When you make big batches, freeze individual and family-sized portions so that you have quick meals for busy days.
6. Buy in Bulk
A Costco membership is worth its weight in gold. If you're the parent of littles, this is exceptionally true. With an executive membership, which costs $10 a month, you can save big on diapers, baby wipes, formula, kids' snacks, and other baby and toddler essentials. Not only that, but you get 2% cash-back on all qualified purchases, which can total up to $1,000 in 12 months. They literally send you a check in the mail.
Costco also offers travel perks that can get you discounted rates on hotels, rental cars, cruises, and more. You can go to their customer service desk to get more information about booking a vacation through them.
Related: More Awesome Costco Perks
6. Start Meal Planning & Eat In More Often
Another way to combat food waste is to make a handful of meals in advance, freeze individual portions, and serve only what you need. This can help prevent unnecessary trips to the store, which can many times lead to impulse buying. Meal planning also helps cut back on how often you eat out every week.
I recommend spending one weekend a month making big batches of food in advance. This can save you time and money. It can also be something that you do as a family so that all the responsibility of meal prep doesn't fall in your lap like it typically does on a regular week.
7. Spring Clean Your House
You likely have tons of stuff that you don't use in your home. From kid's toys and supplies to clothes and kitchenware, we all have clutter, but one man's trash is another man's treasure! This can be another great family project, and when you use a vacation as an incentive to help, everyone seems to become more eager to get involved.
Once you've gathered these items, you can sell them in a variety of ways:
- Garage sale
- Facebook Marketplace
- Facebook selling groups
- Plato's Closet
- Style Encore
- Once Upon a Child
All of these options give you cash in hand immediately. This can be another quick way to get money for a family vacation.
8. Cut Out One Small Luxury Each
If you and your family want to go on vacation, then cutting back needs to be a part of the picture. However, you don't need to change your whole life to make it happen.
Instead, have each person choose one item to give up until it's time for the trip. This can be your daily or weekly Starbucks coffee, the Chick-fil-A that you get every Friday for lunch, or the juice that your kids drink with dinner each night.
These don't need to be big things, but every dollar counts and this is how you save for a vacation when money is tight! This can also be a great lesson to teach your kids about saving.
It sounds ridiculous, but for the folks who live in states like California, Maine, Hawaii, and Oregon, you have the opportunity to get back the bottle and can deposits that you pay at the store when you buy these types of products.
When I lived in California, I made weekly trips to the recycling center. Once I got the cash back, I put it straight into a savings jar. It didn't take long for me to save a chunk of change that helped to pay for a trip!
9. Adjust Home Habits
Another easy way to save for a vacation is to pay attention to how you live. Simple habits to change include:
- Adjust the thermostat by a few degrees.
- Take shorter showers.
- Run appliances in late evening or early morning.
- Don't overload the washer or dryer.
- Nix the fabric softener and dryer sheets.
- Choose Energy Star appliances (if you need to replace these).
- Change the air filters in your home regularly.
- Say goodbye to your maid and clean yourself.
- Do your own yard work instead of using a service.
- Make your coffee at home.
- Pack your lunch.
- Turn off lights, fans, and other electronics when the room is not in use.
- Close air vents to rooms that are not regularly used (like guest rooms).
The Average Cost of a Family Vacation on a Budget
According to Forbes, the average cost of a vacation for a family of four that spans three days was $3,600 in 2023. This assumes that the family is staying in a single hotel room, renting a car, and traveling by air — and that you are buying everyone a seat on the plane (toddlers under two can fly for free when you share your seat).
It also doesn't include discounts for kids' meals and it assumes that you are eating out for every meal. With all that being said, it's important to remember that there are ways to lower this figure.
Ways to Cut Travel Costs
First, Airbnbs can be a perfect place to stay with kids where you have the option to make meals at home. This can greatly reduce food costs. You can also cut costs by choosing a destination that allows you to travel by car. This eliminates the airfare and car rental costs, which are a substantial part of the average listed cost.
For those families who will need to fly, try to be flexible with your dates. This can save you hundreds. Also, book in advance and look for flight sales.
Taking a Family Vacation & Making Memories Is Doable
Traveling can be expensive, but there are easy ways to cut costs and save so that you can enjoy a family vacation on a budget. Taking the time to experience new things with your kids is a great way to bond and make memories that will last a lifetime.
So, no matter if you are saving long-term for a trip to Hawaii, or simply taking a day trip to hike in the mountains, know that it can be well worth making small changes to your daily life.